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MP relishes a spot of political intrigue
POLITICAL intrigue, historical novel, hard-boiled detective potboiler or children’s classic?
Henley MP John Howell has all of the above and more at his fingertips in his collection of more than 4,000 books.
Mr Howell, who is backing the Oxfordshire Reading Campaign, has been adding books since he was a boy and now has a collection of which some schools and libraries would be envious.
Mr Howell said: “I have been collecting books ever since I can remember in the hope my own children might gain from them but of course I have been overtaken by the internet.”
Mr Howell has eschewed the e-reading revolution, and does not have a Kindle or e-reader, instead stocking up on hardback books from charity shops including the Oxfam bookshop in Thame.
So far 25 schools have signed up to take part in th reading campaign. Ninety-two people have put their names forward as volunteers to read with children in school. The deadline for the first wave of schools and volunteers to sign up is Friday and it is planned for staff training to begin after half term.
Mr Howell said: “I think the campaign is great, it is a great way of getting younger people to pay attention to books and to start to read them, to make them serious and to link them to a future repository of learning they are going to be using their whole lives.”
His favourite children’s book was Tom In The Mountains by Ingwald Swinsas, a tale about the adventures of a cat left behind in a winter holiday home.
He recommends the Marston Baines series of books by Malcolm Saville, but was also a fan of some modern children’s literature such as Harry Potter.
Mr Howell said: “I haven’t got any old leather bound volumes. I just never saw the point in that and I don’t think there are any valuable books as such. But they are all valuable to me because they were all chosen by me.”
Mr Howell adds to his library, which he keeps mostly in his study at his Warborough home, at least once a month.
He said he did not read for pleasure as often as he would like due to the parliamentary schedule but tried to “sneak in” reading in between his responsibilities.
And the books he would choose to peruse when he has spare time at the House of Commons?
He said: “I wouldn’t choose anything heavy and political. I would be looking for something to amuse me like the latest PD James novel Death Comes to Pemberley.”
Mr Howell believed reading widely brought him a lot of experience and made him more tolerant.
He said: “If you read a book, it may not be to your liking but you press through to the end of it and if you choose any group of books they will all describe life situations in sometimes gory detail.
“They do make you stop and think and they do make you stop and be a bit more tolerant.”
Mr Howell has recently visited all the schools in his constituency.
He said: “Reading to the children is as good a place to start as any so it is something I have just offered.”
The Oxfordshire Reading Campaign was launched by Oxfordshire County Council, backed by the Oxford Mail, to improve reading standards in the youngest children.
The goals are to:
Improve the proportion of children who reach Level 2B at Key Stage 1 to 86 per cent – a rise of 12 percentage points.
Increase enjoyment of and confidence in reading.
Eighty-one schools across the county, chosen based on Key Stage 1 results over the past three years, are being invited to take part.
The campaign is being run by the National Literacy Trust and will involve:
A reading intervention programme called Project X Code working with Year 2 children in up to 81 county primaries.
Volunteers coming in to schools to read one-to-one with the children involved in the Project X Code programme.
Training and professional development for teachers, teaching assistants, literacy co-ordinators and headteachers.
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